Decorative Glass Specification and Safety Certification

Over the last few years, the phenomenon of what a friend refers to as “Extreme Business” has flourished in almost every corner of our buying and selling relationships. In some companies making the sale doesn’t just come first; it might be the seller’s only objective. And it’s happening in every industry. An untested and dishonest ‘we’ll take care of delivering on the promise later’ strategy usually means attempting un-proven methods, under-engineering products, attempting to duplicate the methods of others, or using sub-standard materials to win an order at any price.

Just the other day, a senior and respected member of a prominent Architectural Design firm in New York City voiced deep concern about the multiple failures of “backpainted” glass products. As the conversation evolved into a discovery session for me, he complained that without an Industry Standard, their design professionals and specifiers really do not know what is behind most of the decorative glass specifications they review. This is why professional specifiers should insist upon, and carefully review test criteria from individual manufacturers of custom Architectural Decorative Glass.

Safety and performance standards require clearly delineated and accepted means, methods and manufacturing protocols that are reinforced by third-party certifications. Documented product testing conventions are central to building confidence with the Architectural & Design community as they specify Decorative Glass from individual manufacturers.

The place to begin leveling the playing field and boosting confidence is with educating the audience of design professionals and specifiers. The continuing education programs offered through AIA and IIDA provide industry professionals with several glass specific courses. My own CEU programs include sessions on glass safety, laminated glass and an introductory lesson on decorative glazing.

Confidently embracing the details within a documented Architectural Decorative Glass Specification reinforces the knowledge resource role of the invested architect or design team. Being able to make an informed decision about the quality and integrity of a decorative glass product can prevent embarrassment for the design firm and expensive, premature failures or unsafe conditions for the client.

Of course, the value of a properly manufactured product that can provide lasting quality and long-range aesthetics has an associated cost. Lower cost is often a reliable indicator of lower quality. The higher costs associated with independent testing, third-party certification, ecological responsibility and production in a safe and clean work environment should be an important consideration for all specifiers.

The “backpainted” glass story is but one example of premature failures from sub-standard manufacturing conditions or inexperience in the absence of third-party certification and testing. Decorative glass is no place for “discovery technology.” As a provider of what has always been my company’s aspiration, as a “best in category leader,” we have introduced new designs, mastered color matching, lead the way in several lamination technologies, and much more. In the case of custom laminated products, we have proceeded only after we made it, tested it for safety and performance, and had the results certified by the SGCC® (Safety Glazing Certification Council) before we ever placed one panel of glass into the market.

The value to the architectural and design community of a clear and well-understood standard for performance will elevate confidence and highlight compliant producers. These important guidelines serve the best interests and high expectations that our shared clients have for the products and designs we offer.

2012 looks to be an exciting time for those of us involved in designing and creating products that make news. As momentum builds for a market rebound, new designs and expressions emerge as long-idle creative energies are stirred. Spring colors, earth-friendly glass printing and new laminating processes are contributions we will make to inspire creativity and confidence in the coming months.

Thank you for your interest in my blog, I am eager for your feedback as well as the opportunity to build new business relationships. Please contact me at

  1. #1 by Kris Vockler on March 2, 2012 - 5:24 pm

    Well said Eugene. The industry has even seen a lessening of standards as opposed to an increase. It’s rather scary to me how easy a poorly performing product can easily make its way to the back of glass. I’ve spearheaded a subcommittee of the GANA Decorative Division to deal with just such a thing and we need fabricators working on this with us. A few years ago, a critical part of an important GANA document, just dropped off the required hours an opacifier has to be exposed to weather and durability testing before getting a passing grade. Ever since, I’ve fought to see it put back in, to date it hasn’t been. But that should change with this next revision. As the standard reads now, it’s up to the supplier to tell you if they feel it would be good for spandrel, or wall-cladding or whatever. We need the standards and they need to be set with intelligence. Could use your help! As I’ve preached over and over, not all coatings are created equal.

  2. #2 by Marc Deschamps on March 16, 2012 - 1:16 pm

    This is a great post Eugene. I agree wholheartedly with the need for test and performance standards for decorative glass products. Great comments from Kris as well.

    Marc Deschamps
    Walker Glass
    Chair GANA Decorative Division

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